Starfleet Military Base - San Francisco, California
Admiral Owen Paris sat alone in his office like every other night, one hand silently stirring a cup of hot chocolate with an antique spoon while the other hand held a photo of his only son, Thomas Eugene, who had been missing for nearly a year simply because he was doing his duty.
Tom had originally gone to medical school and had graduated near the top of his class before being assigned to Caldik Prime Base Hospital in California, but hospital politics and cruel attitudes from older doctors had proven too much and he had only finished his residency before going into the base's piloting Program because he had always enjoyed flying and adventure.
Owen sighed as he reflected on how proud Tom had been upon receiving his pilot's wings, but he had hated the fact that Tom had accepted the assignment of infiltrating a bootleg 'Robin Hood' humanitarian group called the Maquis that traveled the world to steal from the more dishonest governments for the sake of helping third-world countries survive.
It was a noble passion, Admiral Paris thought silently, but there were more legal ways of carrying out humanitarian work. The Maquis had toppled governments with their antics and had initiated riots in several countries and Tom had been sent undercover to try and flush them out, but he had suddenly disappeared while involved with a Maquis group on a raid in a South American area known as the Delta that was a section of impoverished, war-torn nations.
Despite repeated attempts by the Deep Space Nine Base in Bajor, Mexico to find Tom, no trace had been found, but rumors of Tom's fate trickled in every so often with no basis to them. Admiral Paris was pulled from his thoughts by the beeping of his computerized intercom system.
"Admiral Paris, President Shelby is here," a quiet female voice said when Admiral Paris had pressed the button. "She has Captain Janeway of Voyager Base with her."
Admiral Paris sighed, "Send them in," he said in a resigned voice, struggling not to cry.
The door opened and Elizabeth Shelby, who was current President of the United States, came into the room with a youthful looking, but calm woman who was wearing a military uniform, "It's been a while, Admiral Paris," she said in a warm voice. "How are you and Julia?"
"It gets harder every day, Madame President," Admiral Paris replied softly. "It's heartbreaking."
Admiral Paris nodded, "When we find Tom, Admiral, he'll be more than welcome to recuperate on the U.S.S. Voyager," the woman said calmly. "My name is Kathryn Janeway; I'm her Captain. There's also a Voyager base in Kona and it's got the best of every resource imaginable. The plan is to find Tom, get him on Voyager, and take him back to our base for recuperation."
"That's good," Admiral Paris replied in a relieved voice, knowing that his home in California was no place for Tom to recover if he was found simply because the presence of media would be too much for him to handle. "I'll deal with the media. A ship might be a good place for my son."
Captain Janeway nodded, "When I first heard of Tom's disappearance, I enlisted my chief of Security, a Vulcan named Tuvok, to go undercover with the Maquis to see if he could find anything out, but the group he is with mostly camps out in the Amazon Badlands. I believe a former Commander named Chakotay, is their leader and he's got quite the reputation."
"Chakotay?" President Shelby asked in a shocked voice. "Is he out of his mind?"
Captain Janeway gave President Shelby a look, "Captain Picard seems to think so, as he's been calling me every week since he heard that Chakotay used his skills to join the Maquis. The story is that Chakotay used to serve under him at Enterprise Base, but he got bored with it and left."
There was a heavy silence and Admiral Paris sighed, gently returning the photo of Tom to his desk, "Any help you can give me, Captain Janeway, is appreciated," he said quietly. "Even if…"
"I'll be flying to Hawaii in the morning and Voyager should be ready to sail by the time I arrive," Captain Janeway promised firmly. "Commander Cavit is preparing everything."
Admiral Paris nodded and swallowing hard, he allowed himself a quiet, but deep cry.
Delta, South America
"I have water, fruit, and other things, but I only trade and I don't take money," Neelix, a Hispanic man with a Mohawk, jeans, mud boots, and a colorful top said as he stood at a makeshift stall near the prison camp that stood near the village of Lazon where several guards lingered by the stall with one eye on the many prisoners working in the many, many labor fields.
A loud whistle blew and Neelix frowned as he looked up from his stall and saw a guard standing over a very sickly looking prisoner who had fainted from the heat, "Do you want a servant, Neelix?" a guard named Jabin asked as he looked at the trader. "Paris is useless as a laborer."
Neelix paused, as he wasn't into trafficking or slavery, but the man looked like he couldn't take much more of being in a prison camp and looked like he needed a way out, "Let me have a look at this prisoner!" he said in a fake enthusiastic voice. "I could always use someone to scavenge!"
Jabin nodded and sauntered over to the guard and the fallen prisoner. Neelix watched curiously as the two guards talked before the fallen prisoner, who had tattered clothes covering his body and shackles on his feet, was hauled up from the dirt and forcibly dragged over to the stall. The man's hair was blonde, his face was pale and bruised, and his eyes were a lifeless blue.
"Everything here for him," Neelix said in an enthusiastic voice. "I will work him very hard!"
Nodding, Jabin and the other guards dropped the man in the dirt and hurried over to the stall to get whatever they could. Neelix wandered over to the man, who was now on his knees and staring at the dirt in silence, purposely ignoring the bruises and dried blood all over himself.
"Up!" Neelix said in a mock commanding voice, as he had to put on a show for the guards.
The man shakily stood and Neelix grabbed his thin, badly bruised arms, not saying a word as they left the prison camp and went several miles away to a safe zone where he had parked his pickup truck, "I hope you do understand that I had to put on a show for those guards because they expect Hispanic traders who come to the camps to be tough," Neelix explained as he helped the man into the truck. "I've been trading here for a while and watching you work very hard."
"Your name is Neelix?" the man asked in a quiet, shaky voice. "Why did you purchase me?"
Neelix looked both amused and concerned, "I got you out of that prison camp because you looked as if you'd die if I left you there another day!" he replied kindly. "You are not a slave!"
Nervous about remaining in the area, Neelix quickly started up his truck and tore off as fast as he could through the countryside, "What are you going to do with me?" the man asked softly.
Before Neelix could reply, the truck hit a bump and the battered blond immediately grabbed his abdomen, "What's your name, good sir?" Neelix asked worriedly. "You don't look well."
"Tom Paris," Tom replied in a shaky voice, figuring it would do no good to lie to this stranger.
Neelix nodded, "This area has been at war with itself for years, but the traders like me manage to survive because people like Jabin are not smart enough to scavenge," he explained calmly, hoping to keep talking enough so that his new friend would stay awake. "We're almost there."
Tom eyed Neelix warily as the truck came to a stop at the edge of a patch of dense jungle, "This is where I live," Neelix said in an encouraging voice. "It's a little cooler than the labor fields."
"I…I don't feel good," Tom said faintly as he closed his eyes. "I can't feel anything."
Neelx turned off the truck, pocketed the key, and helped Tom out of the truck and into the dense jungle where a shack was concealed. Next to the shack sat a small river that looked calm along with a long canoe and several paddles that looked as if they were there for an easy escape.
"Perhaps a rest and some leola tea will help," Neelix said soothingly. "Come on inside."
Only with Neelix's help did Tom manage to make it inside and he was awed at how well the small shack and the makeshift furniture was put together, "This is amazing," Tom whispered.
"Thank you, Mister Paris!" Neelix said in a delighted voice as he helped Tom over to a bed that had been made from scavenge. "Just rest here and I'll put together a little leola tea for you."
Sighing, Tom allowed Neelix to help him lie down and immediately put a hand on his abdomen, "Thank you for helping me," he said in a weak voice, the last of his strength quickly fading.
"Just get some rest now and I'll make you some tea," Neelix said calmly, quite worried that his newfound friend would die from injuries before he could seek out proper medical assistance.
Too numb and exhausted to argue or protest, Tom sighed and slowly succumbed to darkness.
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